“Alright! Free coffee!” Doug smiled at the seated, nervous stranger that looked just like him.
“Who are you?” Dean was startled by his doppelganger; he quickly looked left and right expecting to find a camera. The stranger’s hair was a slightly darker shade of brown than Dean’s. They both sported similar, heavy builds. If Dean didn’t know he was an only child, this man could have easily passed as his twin. Doug eased back and held his palms out to show he meant no harm.
“Name’s Doug,” he introduced himself and flagged down the waitress. He put his hands down slowly on the table. “Sorry if I scared you,” he said. “I was just excited to get my free coffee.” Dean chuckled.
“I don’t know what your hustle is, Doug, but there’s no way I’m buying you anything. Move along to another mark,” Dean said. Doug almost laughed but a waitress showed up distracted him.
“Yes, sir?” the waitress asked.
“Zero special,” Doug said with a grin and pointed at Dean.
“I’m not paying for anything of his,” Dean was quick to speak up. “I never met the man before.” As Dean defended himself he noticed gold stars flash in the waitress’ eyes. Then, she nodded with a smile.
“Two Zero specials, coming up,” she whirled around and disappeared back into the main cafe.
“Thanks, pal,” Doug said. “I’ll be outta yer hair once the coffee gets here.
“What’s the Zero special?’ Dean asked. Doug grinned.
“You’re new here, huh?’ he asked.
“I’ve lived here all my life,” Dean said.
“This cafe has been here longer than you’ve been alive,” Doug said. “And you’ve never seen it before tonight, right?” he asked. Dean almost denied it as a reflex. But, the more he thought about it, the more Doug was right. Dean could not remember seeing this cafe ever before.
“You and me, we’re Zeros; it means our soul isn’t Unique enough to have a number yet.”
“What do we need a number for?” Dean asked. Dough shrugged.
“Having a number means you’re a Unique soul. This cafe is run by a group of Uniques, Estrellas. Estrellas can traverse to other universes, but having so many in one place weakens the boundaries between universes. Instead of worrying about it, they took advantage and turned it into a promotion.”
“Two Zero specials,” the waitress reappeared. Her tray held two large coffee mugs each with a mountain of whipped cream on top. She set a mug down in front of each of the men, then she placed a black card next to Dean’s mug. “Punch card,” she explained to him. “It’ll help you get back home and visit us again. Use it enough times and you’ll get another free Zero special.
“So they just give anyone that looks like each other free coffee?” Dean asked. He reached down and played with the card. It was the blackest thing he’d ever seen, it was almost weightless and with a very smooth surface. It felt like playing with a shadow.
“They have to be from different universes, which we are. Estrellas can use their eyes to learn about someone,” Doug said.
“What do I do with this?” Dean asked about the card.
“Think about where you want to go, then throw the card at a wall or the floor. It’ll make a hole and you just walk in. But it won’t take you to anywhere on the same Earth. It only takes you to other universes.”
“Holy wow…,” Dean suddenly said in awe. He eyed every pedestrian walking by. He looked up at the azure sky and the towering buildings around him. “I’m really in another universe,” he said.
“If you’re not in a hurry to get back home, there’s a lot more to see,” Doug said. Dean nodded.